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Trade, Connectivity, Cooperation &…

The proximity of China and Pakistan with Taliban-controlled Afghanistan has prompted India to strengthen ties with Central Asia. During his meeting with the Foreign Ministers of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan in New Delhi in the third week of December 2021, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi underscored importance of close ties between India and those Central Asian nations.

In the presence of Indian Minister of External Affairs Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and National Security Adviser Ajit Kumar Doval, Prime Minister Modi said that as India considered the five Central Asian states as its extended neighbourhood, his Government wanted to boost connectivity with them, and it would strengthen India’s economic co-operation with the region. The Prime Minister met the five visiting Foreign Ministers on the side-lines of the Third Edition of the India-Central Asia Dialogue.

Indian PM Modi

The Indian Ministry of External Affairs issued a statement, saying that PM Modi “emphasised the importance that India attaches to its long-standing relations with the Central Asian countries, which are part of its ‘extended neighbourhood’”. It added: “He also underscored the potential of enhanced economic cooperation between India and Central Asia, and the role of connectivity in that regard.

During the meeting, the Indian premier congratulated the five visiting ministers on the 30th anniversary of their Independence, stating that his visit to the region in 2015 was a memorable trip for him. He further assured the guests that India would stress on cultural and people-to-people contacts with Central Asia in the coming years. PM Modi made it clear that India would like to boost trade ties, connectivity, development partnership and regional developments with the Central Asian countries, saying that India, together with Central Asia, should help Afghanistan overcome the ongoing humanitarian and economic crisis. At the same time, he said that India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan should take concerted action against all terror outfits, denying them to use Afghanistan’s soil for planning or financing terror attacks in the region.

Dr Jaishankar (extreme left) and Ajit Doval (extreme right) were also present at the meeting between PM Modi and the Central Asian foreign ministers

Earlier, External Affairs Minister Dr Jaishankar discussed the current regional and global political situation with his counterparts from the five Central Asian nations. They reportedly exchanged views on the Taliban takeover of Kabul, Afghanistan’s post-pandemic recovery, and measures to boost regional connectivity and trade. India also welcomed the Central Asian states’ decision to use a terminal at Iran’s Chabahar port, operated by an Indian company, for trade.

Geopolitical experts have opined that close cooperation between India and the five Central Asian nations would help the Modi Administration counter the growing influence of China and Pakistan on the Taliban leadership in Afghanistan. For India, the political scenario in Afghanistan matters, as the South Asian country shall have to use Afghan roads to transport materials to Central Asia. Keeping in mind India’s belligerent relations with Pakistan, PM Modi has decided to export goods to Central Asia via Iran and Afghanistan. That is why India is also trying to maintain friendly relation with the Taliban, in spite of refusing to recognise the Taliban-led Government in Kabul.

In the past, India had announced that there was no ‘Good Taliban’ or ‘Bad Taliban’, making it clear that the outfit would always pose a security threat to the people of India. Later, New Delhi changed its stance on the terror outfit due to the changing political landscape in Afghanistan. After the withdrawal of the US Forces from the war-ravaged country, India held talks with the Taliban in Moscow, and also sent humanitarian aid to Afghanistan. Experts believe that the Modi Administration would soften its stand further on Taliban in the coming days.

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